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Life Skills and Peer Education - Empowering Vulnerable Youth in Chad

Blue Cross Chad has found that amongst the main risk factors associated with the onset of alcohol dependence are a difficult social environment, discontinuing school and exposure to networks of peers who are already dependant or demonstrate high risk behaviour. Blue Cross Chad is therefore reaching out to and assisting disadvantaged children from difficult backgrounds who are threatened by school failure and often belong to families affected by alcohol-related harm.

Country Context

Alcohol is one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development. With high urbanization rates, African countries in particular, are at risk for rising alcohol rates. Substance abuse contributes to problems like the spread of disease, including HIV/AIDS, crime and prostitution and there are limited resources to deal with the prevention of alcohol and drug use in Africa and around the world. The growing alcohol consumption in Africa and the early age of onset make the introduction of effective prevention programs, particulary in schools important. In the field of addiction prevention, such programs are non-existent in many countries.

Chad, the fifth largest country in Africa, is not an exception of this and has a particularly high rate of alcohol consumption. On the one hand, 70 per cent of the population is abstinent. However on the other, the remaining population’s consumption of annually 33.9 litres of pure alcohol makes it the country with the highest per capita rate in the world (WHO 2014).

Project Summary

The Life Skills and Peer Education project in Chad is a holistic prevention program for disadvantaged youth in the field of alcohol, drugs and HIV/AIDS. It promotes behavior change and the development of essential life skills. Peer education is based on role modeling and the ability of young people to become leaders and agents of change through empowerment and support.

The peer leaders are trained and coached to nurture the development of social and interpersonal competencies. Young people develop their communication and problem solving skills in order to take informed decisions in their life. Through better skills they gain increased self-esteem, cope with problems in a healthy, non-violent manner and learn positive conflict resolution techniques. These competencies are called life skills. These skills contribute towards positive societal change in the community as young people learn to reflect before they act more positive and safer environ-ments are created.

In addition to the life skills lessons taught in public high schools, Blue Cross Chad targets also a specific group of out-of-school youth, namely young motorcycle taxi drivers. Alcohol use as well as the use of a prescription drug called Tramadol are rampant among this group and lead to frequent road accidents putting at harm the drivers as well as their clients.

An additional focus of this project is on the implementation of alcohol policy measures – especially in the field of youth protection – through targeted community action involving local leaders, teachers and parents. These structural measures complement the preventive measures as described above by reducing youth access to alcohol and underage drinking.

Project Objective

Strategic objective is to contribute to the reduction of alcohol and substance abuse among in and out-of-school youth in the capital city of N’Djamena. Youth will learn to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to make healthy decisions about alcohol and drugs and related risks, including HIV / AIDS transmissions. Preventing substance abuse among youth decreases violence and the spread of disease, which allows children to lead a more productive, healthy life.

Target Group

The programme targets middle -school students between 9 and 18 and the specific group of young motorcycle taxi drivers who are especially at risk of substance abuse. Activities are carried out in the capital of N´Djamena. Beside targeting students and motorcyclists, the program also seeks to reach adults (parents and community leaders) as well as government institutions (local and national political and administrative authorities) who play a key role in shaping and enabling a safe environment to protect young people.

Project Activities

• Raising awareness of alcohol and drugs issues through prevention campaigns in and outside school
• Providing weekly life skills lessons at secondary schools in N'Djamena
• Providing life skills coaching to motorbike taxi drivers at their ranks
• Publication of a life skills handbook with practical instructions on teaching life skills in schools
• Training of youth peer educators to oversee free-time activities – e.g. football or theatre – in Life Skills Clubs
• Training of adults – preferably parents and teachers – in “Addiction and the Life Skills Approach to Dealing with Teenagers“
• Community work with parents, teachers and communities in the surrounding neighbourhoods of the targeted schools with special attention to the sensitization to alcohol law and the enforcement of the protection of minors.

Key Achievements to Date
• Increased awareness of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse among both the students as well as the teachers.
• Reduction of the drug trade of Tramadol (opiates-based drug) at participating schools.
• Appreciation of the students who report experiencing, for the first time in their lives, participatory teaching methods (role plays, discussions, etc.).
• Development of an Africa-specific Life Skills Manual for Peer Educators (PDF available from IFBC upon request).

Project Duration: 2013 - 2020

This is an IFBC funded project with support from SDC, Brot für Alle, and the Katholische Kirche Bern.

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